Mission at our Doorstep

Over the past five years, there has been an increase of more than 15 percent in the number of overseas students from mainland China entering Australia. In 2005 there were 81,184 students and if we add on the number of students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South East Asia, the number increases above 130,000.

These students are to be found in our universities, high schools, language schools and other institutions.

In my experience, reaching out to overseas students from China is much easier than reaching out to regular Aussie adults. There is also the strategic importance of reaching out to them.
  1. Those who eventually return to China after their studies here, become influential people who can reach out to their families and friends.
  2. Those who return to China over their school holidays, would be good channels for short term mission trips.
  3. Those who do not return to China after completion of their studies, would be able to reach out to immigrants (increasing by more than 10 percent annually), as well become assets to local Chinese churches.
Many of these overseas students are in NSW (37,810) and Victoria (25,470). They come from various backgrounds but many are products of the "One Child Policy": they are the only child of wealthy families who fully support their tuition fees and living expenses. They can be self-centered, spoilt, dependent, weak in self-control and priority-setting, liberal, idealistic, materialistic, and individualistic. These students usually study full time, board with families or schools. They spend time with their home stay parents, join in school excursions, socialise with other Chinese students. There are several ways of reaching out to these overseas students such as through Christian home stay, boarding school, inviting them to homes of the local church families, teaching them English, through outreach camps during the university holidays and Bible Study groups at universities.

Another aspect of reaching out to overseas students is Individual Friendship Ministry where local families are involved in taking care of an overseas student, taking them out once or twice a month, helping them understand and adapt to local culture, building up trusting friendships, preaching the gospel and introducing them to local Chinese churches, helping them in language and other aspects of every day living. The leaders of the local churches need to be trained in preparing for this ministry. There is a need to understand Chinese overseas students' mindsets, attitudes and concerns; learn helpful hints in building relationships with them, how to share the gospel and help them grow in their faith.

There is a golden opportunity to reach out to these students as many of them are keen to know about Christianity and they think that Christianity is a Western belief and being in a Western country they are very open to it.



Hooi Wan Cheng is the Anglican Chinese pastor of Hornsby Chinese Church, part of St Peter's Hornsby, Sydney. Editor's note: another excellent resource are the talks 'God in China' and 'Contours of Mission in South East Asia', by Hwa Yung, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, given at CMS Victoria's 2005 Summer School (available from CMS VIC).